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Posts Tagged ‘Jacob & Rachel’

Remember this post?  It’s one of my favourites because so many people commented on it and I loved to get everyone’s opinion.  It’s a topic that I’ve been thinking about for many years and when I got some insight into alternatives for the infertile people in the Bible I couldn’t wait to share it with you… 

Traditional surrogacy:

Genesis 16:1-2 (NIV):  Hagar and Ishmael 1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her. Abram agreed to what Sarai said.”

Genesis 30:3-7 (NIV):  3 Then she said, Here is Bilhah, my maidservant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and that through her I too can build a family.  4 So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, 5 and she became pregnant and bore him a son.  6 Then Rachel said, God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son. Because of this she named him Dan.  7 Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son.”

Genesis 30:9-12 (NIV):  9 When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her maidservant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife.  10 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son.  11 Then Leah said, What good fortune! So she named him Gad.  12 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son.”

Modern traditional surrogacy is done via IUI.  The eggs of the surrogate mother are inseminated with either the husband’s sperm or a donor’s sperm.  In the biblical times there was no IUI, so it was done with intercourse.  I’m sure a lot of modern women today are thankful that we don’t have to do it that way anymore! 

In my reference Bible it says:  “According to an ancient text from Nuzi from the second century BC it was customary for a barren woman to let her slave have intercourse with her husband, and to claim the resulting children as her own.”   An Assyrian text from the 7th century BC has even more detail and roughly translated it says:  “if Subetu does not get pregnant and give birth, she may appoint a slave in her place.  Through the slave she (Subetu) will bring sons to life and the sons shall be hers.  If she likes the slave she may keep her, but if she hates her, she may sell the slave.”  

From the above verses you can see that both Rachel and Lea named the sons and it even says: “Then Rachel said, God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.”  Rachel is claiming the son as her own.  I always thought that the slaves were more like concubines, and the children were seen as their children, but it seems that was not the case.  I wonder if the slaves had any say in the matter.  I think not…

Adoption:

Genesis 48:5 (NIV):  5 Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine.”

Jacob had disinherited his eldest son Reuben, because he had committed incest with Jacob’s concubine.  Jacob gave Josef his brother Reuben’s portion as well as his own portion of his inheritance, but instead of it going directly to Joseph it is given to his sons Ephraim and Manasseh, whom Jacob had adopted. 

Exodus 1:22 (NIV):  22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: Every boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.” 

Exodus 2:2-10 (NIV):  2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months.  3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.     4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.  5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it.  6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. This is one of the Hebrew babies, she said.  7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?  8 Yes, go, she answered. And the girl went and got the baby’s mother.  9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you. So the woman took the baby and nursed him.  10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, I drew him out of the water.”

Jochebed, Moses’ mother made a plan to try and save her son from the decree of Pharaoh.  She must have known that the Pharaoh’s daughter would go to bath at that specific spot, and she must have know that Pharaoh’s daughter would take pity on her baby.  I’ve read in one article that the Pharaoh’s daughter might have been infertile, as the argument is that someone who has children of her own might not accept a stranger’s baby as her own so easily.   

Esther 2:7 (NIV):  7 Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.”

Enhancing fertility:

Genesis 30:14 (NIV):  14 During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”

The Dudaim or Mandrake plant was traditionally believed to increase a women’s fertility but was also know for its aphrodisiac qualities and believed to remove sterility in the East.  It’s not commonly used anymore, but was also used for its anaesthetic qualities and could cause hallucinations if ingested in sufficient quantities.  The mandrake fruit would have been ripe between April and May for a very short time and it was quickly eaten by birds and animals.  Harvest time was late May to early June, so it was very unusual for Reuben to have found some.  That’s probably why Rachel wanted them so desperately.   

Ironically the mandrakes did not help Rachel to get pregnant, but Leah did get pregnant when Jacob visited her tent that night.  Rachel did conceive another boy at a later stage though only after Leah had another two sons and a daughter.

So you can see from the above that there were alternatives for the childless couples in the Bible.  They   could adopt, have a child though a slave or even use some herbal remedies (we only have proof of the mandrakes from the Bible, but there could have been others).  Why do some people expect us then to just have faith and pray for our own babies in today’s day and age? 

I’m convinced that our modern methods of ART are better than the traditional surrogacy method of the Bible, and  maybe we should remind the critics of ART of that next time they want to voice their opinions on a matter they know nothing about…

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I’ve been studying infertility in the bible since I’ve been feeling down and I’ve come across some interesting revelations that I want to share with you.  Today’s revelation is about the emotions that we are going through due to our infertility. 

Genesis 30:1-2(NIV):   1 When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, Give me children, or I’ll die!  2 Jacob became angry with her and said, Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”

Rachel was jealous of her sister, because her sister was able to bear sons for Jacob and she could not.  She is so upset about it that she feels she cannot go on with life anymore.  It’s just unbearable for her…  I’ve read this before but only recently have I noticed that Rachel’s feelings are like mine!  After all these centuries and so many changes over time, the basic human reactions in certain situations are still the same! 

Poor Rachel – her husband Jacob did not understand her feelings.  Maybe it’s because he had 3 sons already by that time.  Jacob gets angry at her when she is so desperate for a child of her own, but isn’t that also a lot like how things go today?  A lot of women are desperate for a baby of their own, but it seems that their husbands are not that worried about it.  It seems that their husbands don’t understand how they are feeling.

My reference Bible says of Rachel:  “Rachel is a symbol of the disappointments and passion of so many barren women.  Her experience should be a revelation to other’s that do not know anything of this problem”  I like this – so many times other people think that what we are going through is not so bad, that we should just get over it.  I just wish others could see it so clearly, because it does not seem as though anybody I know has noticed it…

Genesis 30:22-24 (NIV):  22 Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb.  23 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, God has taken away my disgrace.  24 She named him Joseph, and said, May the LORD add to me another son.”

Rachel was not content with the one son that she did have.  Joseph’s name means to add again, and it says in the Bible that she said:  “May the LORD add to me another son.”  Immediately after her son was born, she longed for another, otherwise she would not have named him so.  She did not appreciate the blessing she had already received and she wanted another son.  That was incredibly ungrateful of her, don’t you think? 

Can we really blame her?  I know that after we saw the one heartbeat on the scan, I also thought about when we could try for another, as I would love to have 2 children…  I have always thought it unfair towards a child not to have a sibling.  Maybe it’s because my sister and I differ in age with 14 months, and have always been very close.  A lot of people always asked if we were twins, because we were almost the same size… So I guess I was just as guilty as Rachel of an attitude of discontent.  I was incredibly grateful for our pregnancy and the one baby that had a heartbeat, but the next baby was already in the back of my mind…

The other barren woman that I want to discuss is Hannah.  There are some similarities to those of Rachel.  Both of them were married to a man that had two wives.  Both were barren but the other wife already had children…  Both were the apple of their husband’s eye… 

1 Samuel 1:6-8 (NIV):  6 And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.  7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.  8 Elkanah her husband would say to her, Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

Poor Hannah’s problem was made worse by the fact that the other wife, Peninnah kept taunting her about the fact that she could not have children.  I cannot even imagine how that must have felt.  It says that she wept and could not eat.  When I did my research one person said that Hannah was the first documented case of anorexia, because she did not eat.  I don’t necessary agree with this as I have trouble eating when I’m stressed or distressed, and that does not make me anorexic.  Some people are comfort eaters and others just don’t have any appetite and I have had that same problem since my miscarriage.  That could have been the case with Hannah. 

I must say there is a stark contrast between the reaction of Elkanah and Jacob.  Elkanah was concerned for his wife, he noticed that she was going through a hard time and did not get angry with her.  It seems though that Elkanah did not fully understand Hannah’s pain – this comment proves it: “Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”  He did not understand that her longing for a child had nothing to do with her love for him.  Thankfully my DH is more like Elkanah than Jacob…

1 Samuel 1:10-11 (NIV):  10 In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD.  11 And she made a vow, saying, O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

1 Samuel 1:15-16 (NIV): 15 Not so, my lord, Hannah replied, I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD.  16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”

Hannah turned in her time of grief to God and asked Him to help her.  There is nothing wrong with admitting to God that you are sad or in pain, and to hand it all over to Him.  She was so desperate for a child that Hannah made some very tough promises to God.  Hannah was feeling completely alone in her anguish – all the characters we meet here, Peninnah, Elkanah and the priest Eli, who thought she was drunk, could not understand her pain.  The only one she could turn to was God, and God heard her prayer and a little while later their boy Samuel, who became one of the great prophets, was conceived.  Hannah trusted God in her darkest hour and God rewarded her for her obedience.

So what did I learn from these two women in the Bible?  I learnt that it is normal to have negative emotions about infertility – it’s not good for me, but it’s totally normal.  I know it’s wrong to be jealous and ungrateful, and I don’t want to condone it – we must confess our sins before the Lord, but it’s also no use beating myself up about it and feeling guilty all the time, especially after I’ve confessed those sins.  I also feel somewhat more normal that I sometimes feel like I cannot go on like this, or that I’m sad and grieving all the time… 

I don’t feel that Hannah did anything wrong from what we see of her in the scriptures, she was obviously very upset and incredibly sad, and feeling so desperate that she promised to consecrate her son to the Lord.  That could not have been easy to do but she kept her promise.  So that made me feel better about my own feelings of anguish, telling me that there is no sin in being sad.  The best lesson I’ve learnt from her is that I must trust God and turn to Him in my times of sorrow. 

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